Dear young(er) artist,
At mid-life, I teeter on a blurry line between my youthful past and the golden years ahead. In this moment I'd like to pass on a simple mantra, artists make art. I heard it uttered by an art teacher as a kid, but didn't really get it until recently. In 2010 when I decided to make art my work, stepping outside the daily lines of work wasn't easy. After taking an intense sketchbook studio course in 2014, I learned to value the work of sketching as a productive art-making process.
No matter where you are between young and old, begin with a good hardcover sketchbook. Gather basic art supplies: pencils, pens, markers, pastels, paints, etc. ...and tape, glue, whatever else you'd like to experiment with. Then, consider these starting tips:
For viewing and learning, browse examples of my work available online:
With kind regards,
Thirty years ago, I laid eyes on him for the first time. I was too busy working, he kept going, and so we met only in my mind. A few years later in the spring of 1990, I remembered his face as he took the seat next to mine in Asian American Lit. He whispered that he forgot his copy of our class novel and asked to share mine. Days later when he forgot his book again, he was more interested in the scribbles on my notepad than the conversations happening in class. So when he started to write in the space beside my random sketch, I looked beyond his audacious reach and saw the words of a beautiful stranger who somehow knew my best-kept, best-friend secret of leaving marks on paper.
Those were the days when 'private messaging' came with the face-to-face thrill of meeting a new friend. As technology delivers bite-sized texts and character-limited tweets, I'm holding tight to one word that's slowly fading on my yellow paper: artist. Making art allows my hands to leave deliberate and purposeful marks on different surfaces to connect with another human. And when that one human becomes the person of my life, I hope the marks I leave will also keep our children connected. To this day, wherever he makes a point of sitting next to me -- in a restaurant, at the movies, on the soccer field bleachers -- I feel the luck of our twice-upon-a-lifetime first meeting in a classroom. So with him by my side, I'm working on a new series to feature hand-written messages that I'd like to keep from fading.
#breadcrumbs, FAMILY series
I am Chinese American.
I was a child immigrant and grew up to be a naturalized United States citizen.
Refugees and immigrants are people.
And bans on groups of people for the sake of fighting terrorism ...how?
People survive on love, kindness, understanding and compassion.
Terrorism feeds on fear and hatred; it preys on people globally.
No matter how you voted, if you voted
"We the people" includes you, me, and people who came
and will continue to come from different places.
I am American and a world citizen
who advocates for people-kind.
I will not be terrified into supporting hatred.
Oh yes, can't forget to wish everyone a happy *2017*
#chooselove #endhate #findpeace ...peacefully
My father has dementia. On good days when Dad has the energy to engage in conversations, he is pleasantly confused as to who, what, where, how, and most of all, why. And when flashes of his past seem to meet up with our present, I'm most happy he's here with me.
A few nights ago, while eating dinner, images of the last debate filled the TV screen and caught Dad's eye. We talked for a long time about the election, which reminded me of how we used to banter about politics. He could not name our current President, but he let me know how Hillary was married to Bill some time ago. I explained that voting would take place next month and making sense of the two candidates led to more-than-usual levels of confusion for both of us. Over and over, he circled back to pieces of his past to analyze "who" and "why." Of her, Dad said (in Chinese), "She's smart and powerful," and of him, "He's the shoe king, right?" Was he remembering 'Ivanka' brand shoes? I'm not sure. Regardless, Dad cracked a smile and my kids laughed a lot. So I asked Dad who he'd like to vote for? He said (in English), "Hillary Clinton, very smart. Not Trump," to which he added (in Chinese), "...he sells shoes." This made sense to him and me - in that moment, little else mattered.
Ironically, if we had been faced with two new-to-him candidates on TV, Dad may have had little or perhaps nothing with which to connect the dots. By the end of the night, more meaningful than his preference for the next President, my father finished eating his entire dinner and willingly smiled for several selfies with my kids and me. That was a good day.
This goes out to my kids as a reminder to listen a little deeper and try a little harder to make sense of life's confusing moments. Always #chooselove, especially in the years to come when I'm incorrigibly more forgetful than ever. xoxooooxox ❤️
view more pages in my #TrippingThisLife sketchbook
In November 2014, I posted my first blog to celebrate the completion of my masters in art education and capstone project, Color, Vision, and Art... Since then, I have had kind opportunities to extend my UF research and share my art-work with our community: Exhibition Summer 2015 (No Strings Attached) and Color Vision Awareness (a collaborative project, working with Clinton City Schools).
The tricky thing with any sort of "ISM" is that by defining (and otherwise labeling to encapsulate notions, concepts, ideas, etc.), we are also confining. Take "feminISM" for example: movements, actions, speeches take place to support, challenge, and ultimately shape it as something that our current President seems to know something about. So then, what about the stuff that happens outside the idea of that "ism" - would it be considered "anti-ism" when it better fits the (stereotypical) mold of another kind? When we look at "isms" (and anti-isms), how do we find equality (and freedom) if defining for one person is viewed as confining by another? At minimum, it's complicated.
Simply put, here are a few moments, decisions I have made as an independent human:
* go to college.
* be with one partner, Ken ...to grow my life.
* work several jobs to pay for my education, twice.
* put my medical career on hold ...to dedicate more time with family.
...and yes, Ken supported my decision to work at home.
* stay at home to do the kind of work survived by love.
...and staying at home has been anything but and everywhere in between.
* go back to school.
* pay for my education, again.
* work for myself and others.
And through it all, I make art as a choice of voice. I still make art and work at home, in my studio, and on paths to different places. Most fortunately, I live with the loving support of family and friends along the way. I don't see my life, work, and actions as that of a feminist, but then, how else would I define my other-than-presidential look at feminism?
This blog goes out to girls, women, and people who look beyond glamour to define self.
"still, forever" ...in my sketchbook, Japan, summer 2016
I like this article from The New York Times...
Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer - The battle to raise awareness has been won. So why aren’t more lives being saved?
But truly, if facts show 1 in 8 women and 1 in 1,000 men... then, the battle continues.
National Breast Cancer Foundation - Breast Cancer Facts
Awareness is staying informed (facts and stats DO change) and then, caring enough to take action ...do something good to show you care.
Dear LaLa (and all my kids),
I cried selfishly on 9/11/2001 as the ripple effects of horrific events threatened your life inside mine. Tears flowed uncontrollably as screaming thoughts in my head had enough exclamation marks to kick-start pre-term contractions. On that day, fear, anger, and pain sucked the joy out of being pregnant.
In the moments that followed, while I obeyed other doctors' orders to rest at home, I often thought about one dear patient I saw in my office clinic on the morning of 9/11. In real time, we learned about the events in NYC as he said to me, "Why can't we all just get along..." Stumped for words, my heart ached as I narrowed in on one thought: "How will I raise my kids in this hateful world?" So I decided to take "bed rest" orders as prescription to guard you from repeated images of violence in the news and I took up knitting. Your pastel colored baby blanket is far from perfect, but it worked. The quiet and purposeful act of using my hands while focusing on you, my sweet baby, slowly helped reclaim the joy of being your mommy.
In the years of mother-daughter bonding since 2001, my hands use more familiar tools to make art. In September 2010, I painted Remember September as a note-to-self and a reply to my patient's bigger question posed nine years earlier: choose love. When we consciously, actively, and generously give love in everyday acts of kindness, I believe we will find many moments of joy to ease some bits of suffering. Although I sometimes still cry selfishly for you and me, I believe our love is stronger than all the hate out there.
I love you always.
This week, I spent bittersweet moments taking down my art at the Small House. As I took apart "No Strings Attached," I thought about one curious 9-year-old viewer who asked, "What's 'NFS'?" written on an art label. At the time, my short answer was, "NFS means 'not for sale' and this piece of art (#MOMSwork), I have chosen not to sell." I went on to explain the ephemeral nature of installation art and how #MOMSwork would come down at the end of the show, its parts disassembled and never to be viewed as it hung in the gallery this summer. At some point in the process of making #MOMSwork, I realized that it was conceptually and visually bigger than me, and that I would have to let it go, one piece and one moment at a time. In the moments ahead, I'll add my 'GYang' signature to each used #dryersheet portrait. Then, I hope to return each portrait to the individual who chose to share a personal photo of loved ones in support of my #FACEproject. Thinking back to May 2014 when #FACEproject existed only as an idea, I could not have imagined the immeasurable joy I would get by sharing my work with others. Clearly, I could never claim #MOMSwork as solely mine; and as art, it was simply never meant for sale.
It's "throw back Thursday"...5 years ago this month, I had my first solo exhibition at the Small House, home of the Sampson Arts Council in Clinton, NC. And in exactly one week, I have the good fortune of sharing art with my community once again. Extending my artistic voice of 2010, my summer exhibition, "No Strings Attached" reflects lived experiences in different places and with different people who helped shape the artist I am today. And while my art is often personal, by sharing it with others I stand open to the vulnerabilities of criticism and support. So why does art matter? ...because at the end of the day, how else will we get to know one another? In the future when I see you, I hope you'll stop and say, "Hi" so that we may begin our journey to finding common ground we share.
I made "Life's Good Stuff" for my very special Z. As I worked, she chimed in with how I should add more color to my previously drab and unfinished golf ball painting. As time would have it, her persistence in making herself heard eventually led me to ask if she'd like to share in my work. Z's circle (top right corner) stands strong to reflect her beautiful and creative spirit. Everyday, I am so grateful that my awesome Z continues to change the game of life for me!
Owner of HYFA. Original art-work signed GYang. Artist, educator, and advocate ...because art matters. Retired Family Physician (MD)